Dog Preventative Care - Everything You Need To Know About Dog Preventative Care

What is preventative care for dogs?

I look at that as trying to avoid a problem from happening, what to do to keep risk low and prevent a problem before it happens.

So it's not just medical, but safety and other things to consider as well.

Dr. Nichola Gaither
Animal Hospital of Statesville

What information does my veterinarian need to know about my dog's lifestyle before providing preventive care recommendations?

In order to tailor it to your particular pet, we need to know what the lifestyle is. What that would include is, is it just a family pet? Do you guys venture out? Are you outdoors? Does your pet sleep on the couch for 24 out of the 24 hours? Is it a working dog? Is it a breeding pet? All of these lifestyle factors would play a role in the type of prevention we would recommend. Agility is another thing that requires different care and different precautions. There are some preventative care measures that we'll talk about that will be recommended no matter what the lifestyle is, but we would also tailor it to fit your pet, depending on the lifestyle.

What recommendations will my veterinarian make when it comes to my dog's preventive care plan?

A lot of the general recommendations that would be good for any pet would be just basic care and basic wellness. That would include certain vaccines that are considered core vaccines, like rabies or even distemper/parvo. Other things would include proper nutrition, so we would talk about what proper nutrition would be depending on the life stage of your pet. It changes as they go from puppy to adult to senior dog. Other things may include dental hygiene and how to best keep your pet's teeth healthy. You have a puppy, so brush your puppy's teeth while they're young, and get them used to that, just keeping their teeth healthy. And then parasite prevention. Even if your pet's just an indoor pet, we know that parasites are contracted in many different ways. One would be through mosquitoes. We recommend heartworm prevention for every pet because then we know that mosquitoes come indoors. We recommend other parasite protection as well. Most of the heartworm prevention we recommend also take care of the intestinal parasites and the external parasites, like fleas and ticks, and heartworms. So you're getting a lot of bang for your book.

We also recommend microchipping, and spaying and neutering. That preventative is used to prevent losing your pet and not being reunited if a disaster was to happen and they were to get loose. With spaying and neutering, if you're not planning to breed your pet, then consider spaying or neutering to prevent problems.

I talk about wellness and prevention as going hand in hand. We recommend a blood screen yearly for our pets. We recommend screening for heartworms yearly on our dogs, even if your pet's on prevention monthly, because we know that sometimes there are things that happen either from us, we forget, or maybe your pet didn't take it well or threw it up, and we didn't notice, or whatever the reason may be. That's just good preventative care. Nothing preventative is ever a hundred percent.

What is the difference between insurance and preventive care?

We have to explain that a lot because we have our wellness plans. The way I tend to explain it to my clients is wellness, and preventative wellness involves what you expect to happen or what you would foresee could happen. Insurance is for the unplanned or unexpected. I say that insurance for pets is not very different than insurance for us. You're paying insurance for that disaster that could happen, that really expensive problem, whereas with the wellness or preventative, oftentimes you're paying to keep them healthy and well and prevent that problem. But, obviously, we can't do that in every situation.

How can I keep my dog safe in a car?

The center for pet safety has a website that you can go on, and they test different products that are available for pets in cars. We know that every product that's sold, whether for us or for our pets, is not always guaranteed or actually accurate in its description. For instance, sometimes it harnesses your pet in the car, or maybe it's a crate that you're going to put in the car. They talk about different crash safety testing they do. It's kind of like your car. They crash them and see what happens. And they also show your pets without anything holding them in and what it does to them. So it hits home more and motivates us to take care of that and to protect them while they're in the car. That's a good resource. We would just talk about proper restraint for your pet. A lot of people enjoy their pet riding on their lap or sitting in the seat beside them. It's like your kid, how safe are they if they're doing that and the unexpected happens. So again, we're about risk avoidance in preventative care. If we can prevent that problem from happening, then that's what we want to do. It's safer for you too. You don't have distractions. I believe some states now have distraction laws. If your pet is loose in the car and running around, that can cost you a hefty fine. Not only is your cell phone distracting, but your pet can be distracting.

Why should I keep my dog on a leash when in public?

That's a great question. I would say it's because you can't always predict what someone else is going to do. You may know your dog and know your dog is well trained and listens to you, and your dog would never act up. Sometimes we think that about our kids too, and it's not always true. But again, it's about prevention. So if your pet is on a leash and they see the squirrel across the road, they don't dart out after it and risk getting hit. Another aggressive pet could come, and you can't always control what happens around you, but maybe you can help control what you're doing or what your pet's doing if they're confined on a leash. I see that a lot of people say, well, my dog doesn't hurt anybody, and you might have the reply, well, my dog does. That's always something to consider.

What can I do to keep my house and yard pet safe?

I looked at this question a lot like childproofing your house, puppy-proofing, dog-proofing. Think about it on their level. The size of your dog would matter. Are they able to jump up on countertops? Are they small, and can they fit into tight spaces? So just think about that through a dog's eyes. What are they seeing? Obvious things like toxins or chemicals you wouldn't want in their reach, certain foods that could entice them to get up on high surfaces would be a good thing to prevent. They don't know when to stop either. One thing that I think about routinely when I do dishes is if you hand wash any dishes, and you put them over in the drainer. We had a cat that came in, and the owner was washing dishes and washing knives, and they put the knife blade up to dry. Their cat went by and fell on the knife. The cat's okay, but it did have a laceration and had to be treated. So always think about that.

I'm one of those. I'm very preventative-minded. I'm the defensive player. So I think about this as sports: offense or defense, and what are you more drawn towards. Are you an offensive type of person, always on the offense, or are you always on the defense? I'm more of a defensive player. So I'm always thinking, what if. You don't want to be anxious about it, but you want to be smart and wise about it. So just think of those things, like what if my cat runs across the counter and lands on this knife. Obviously, that sounds really bad straight up, but when you're washing dishes, would you think about that? And you're not too far out of the young kid's stage that you remember all those things they can get into. My kids are past that stage, but I still think about it. I have to remind my husband to make sure he puts his pill thing up in the cabinet, don't leave it on the counter because that would be a great chew toy. And that could be really dangerous not knowing what they eat, like medications. Keep medications secure when you take them or put them into your hand, make sure you do it over the counter. Just little steps like that. They're quick to grab what you drop.

What are some suggestions for outside? We talked about if you're walking your pet on a leash, having it properly restrained. Of course, we could get into a lot of different things, but access to fresh water, cover from the elements, whether that's sun or rain, and then just being mindful of what's outside. A lot of things like yard treatments are pretty pet-friendly because people know that that's what owners want. And a lot of people have pets, and they get their yard treated. But just thinking about what products are out there, plants that are outside that they may become exposed to, especially at this time of year. I'm seeing more things like mushrooms, and you don't know which ones are toxic unless you're a real fungi expert. There are always little mushrooms sprouting up everywhere, and they can do some pretty good damage. Certain plants, as you said, are poisonous. So supervision outside is always good. Check out the surroundings if you're going somewhere new, like a dog park or the soccer complex to walk or somewhere like that. Just do a quick survey, maybe a drive-by or something, to make sure that you feel like that's a safe place for your pet. Just be with them and watch what they're getting into. As weather it gets colder, antifreeze and that type of thing becomes more of an issue. Any chemicals, anything that you wouldn't want to ingest yourself, don't leave around for your pet.

What pesticides are harmful to my dog?

We don't see it a lot, but what we do see is rat poison. No one I know wants mice and rats in their house, so we oftentimes put out pesticides to prevent these pests from coming indoors. Then, our little dog finds them, or we may not know they find them, but then they exhibit some symptoms, and we highly suspect that, if it's in the household. Other things like roach or ant killers are not as toxic in the normal concentrations. So sometimes dogs will chew up those little ant baits. Weed killers are often pretty pet friendly, but just ask if you have a company that services your yard or your house for pests. Just ask or let them know. Although a lot of those are pet friendly, they'll sometimes say you shouldn't let pets on the area that they've sprayed for a certain time.

What are the most common dog health conditions that can be prevented with a good wellness plan?

A lot of them are infectious diseases. Vaccines prevent a lot of infectious diseases. We don't see a lot of these problems because of the vaccines. This includes infectious diseases like parasites and worms. We talked about the preventative. It's very easy to prevent these problems, which can be very costly and even life-threatening to treat. We had a puppy just last week that had to have a blood transfusion because of parasites. And so that's very treatable and also preventable. In this situation, of course, they acquired the puppy with this infestation, so it wasn't their fault, but this puppy had to go through a lot of treatment that could have been avoided with prevention. I think a lot of people think of it as only a puppy problem, but we see a lot of dogs whose care may or may not have been the best, and as older dogs, they're weaker, and their immune systems are worse. We see them full of parasites a lot of times. Just implement preventive care for heartworms and things that your doc recommends.

Another one we talked a little bit about is as you're talking about pets, aging, dental disease is preventable. Not only what you can do at home, sometimes our pets don't allow us to do a lot of preventative care, whether it's brushing or, but especially our smaller dogs' genetics also play a huge role in the amount of dental disease that a lot of pets can have. Yearly dental cleaning with your veterinarian is recommended, and having them professionally cleaned as recommended can prevent them from needing full mouth extractions later in life. And the disease and bacteria that accumulate in the mouth lead to kidney failure and other problems. So what can start out seeming minor or not important as the pet is young, as time goes on, can definitely be avoided if we take those preventative measures. I always remember what my dad said about brake care. If you hear them scraping and squealing, you've waited too long, and your brake job's going to be a lot more expensive than if you did it when you just started to feel that they're not right. So do it before it gets really expensive.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 802-1280, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Preventative Care - FAQs

Dr. Nichola Gaither
Animal Hospital of Statesville

Is it preventive care or preventative care?

I always think of preventative as what you give them to prevent things and preventive care as what we do. But that's the “Kyle” opinion, not necessarily the grammatical position.

How does preventive care help my dog?

It's all about stopping a problem or preventing it before it happens. So it's risk avoidance. We would rather not have a problem happen than talk about trying to treat it. It's a lot cheaper that way, too. What you put out, to begin with, is a lot cheaper than what you have to take care of if you ignore it.

How often should my dog be seen for preventive care?

Our general recommendation, as far as the veterinary visit and exam go, is twice yearly for our pets. When they get older, we may talk about more testing and things that need to be done. Preventative care may entail more things throughout the month or the year besides just exams.

My dog seems perfectly fine. Why do I need to come in twice a year or even once a year?

That's a great question. The other part of that question would be I'll just come in when I'm noticing a problem. Oftentimes, pets hide their sickness. They hide their disease. We are trained to do a complete and thorough physical exam so we can pick up problems that owners are just unaware of and maybe didn't notice before the problem becomes big. Even if your pet's healthy, the best way to keep them healthy would be to continue that prevention to put your mind at rest, knowing that you're doing everything you can to prevent a problem.

What will you do during a dog preventive care appointment?

The first thing that we do is talk to you about the history. If you're there and your pet is completely well, those visits are few and far apart because somebody almost always thinks of a question or a concern that they have, but they save it until their visit because they didn't think it was serious enough to come in before, which is fine. We can talk about that. So we are really big on client education. We typically talk about the pet's lifestyle, which we talked about in the previous episode, because we want to know what your pet does daily and how things are going.

So history and conversation are one of the very first things that we do. Then we put our hands on your pet. The physical exam is a really important part. Our pets don't always talk to us and tell us what's going on. They might give us a clue, and we may be observant, or we might have busy lifestyles, and we don't notice that they've had a raging ear infection or problem that we didn't see. So we put our hands on them and do a physical exam, and then we may talk about testing. Depending on what that visit entails, we may do blood work and poop checks. We do a lot of poop checking for parasites. It tells us a lot about the health of a pet's gut. Then we educate on the next step, how to go forward in keeping your pet healthy if they are healthy.

I know you've talked about the exam as being from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail, so you check their eyes, nose, ears, mouth, teeth, and lymph nodes.

A lot of times, if a pet comes in for limping on the right side of the back, I don't go to that back right leg initially because if it hurts, the first thing I do is hurt your pet. Then everything's going to hurt when I touch it. So I'll start maybe on the front legs or the left, and then the right, and owners will often say, no, it's the right. I did hear you, but there is a reason for examining the whole pet. As you said, you don't just say, okay, well, that leg looks okay or that leg has an issue. Let's look at everything. It would be a very rare occasion if your pet came in for one problem that we didn't do a full physical exam because we feel like that's very necessary to do. We listen to the heart and lungs and feel in their belly to see if there are any enlargement of organs, anything out of place. We palpate the abdomen, and we feel the joints by flexing and extending the joints. We're feeling for any problems. Sometimes we can feel problems internally just by palpating outside, whether it's a mass or tumor, an enlargement of an organ, or maybe it's a stone in the bladder. There are certain things that we can feel from the outside. And then just listen to the heart and the lungs, feel the pet from top to bottom, check their skin, look for external parasites, and lift the tail. We check everything.

What preventive medication does my dog need monthly?

That's probably alluding to heartworm prevention. Heartworm prevention can be given in different ways, but monthly is one way to give it. As Kyle mentioned in the earlier video, not only does it prevent heartworm, but also external parasites like flea and ticks, and internal parasites, like intestinal worms. A lot of preventatives have a combination effect. That would be a monthly one. Other things, depending on if your pet has a specific problem, might include the monthly allergy medications they need. There may be some others that are specifically monthly. That's all I can think about right now.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 802-1280, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Preventative Care - FAQs 2

Dr. Nichola Gaither
Animal Hospital of Statesville

What illnesses are staved off by good preventive care for my dog?

How much time do we have? There are a lot of things. One I think about is infectious diseases. That would be preventative care with vaccinations. Certain things that we won't see would be prevented with a rabies vaccine and parvo vaccine for our dogs. Depending on your dog's lifestyle, your pet may need an influenza vaccine if it's around a lot of other dogs. There are other lifestyle vaccines that we would recommend. You can prevent intestinal problems. Proper nutrition would prevent vomiting and diarrhea, which no one wants to see in their pet or clean up. Pancreatitis can be prevented. A lot of times, we want to feed them what we're eating, but their little bodies can't handle it. We're not always eating the healthiest, but their little bodies are definitely not made for those foods either. Then it can lead to pancreatitis or upset stomach that we can prevent by feeding properly. A few other things that I wrote down are skin issues. We can prevent skin problems by preventing parasites like fleas and ticks. Also, we can prevent heart disease by keeping your pet at a healthy weight and doing proper exercise. A lot of those preventative measures are very similar to a lot of human preventive care measures.

Will dog preventive care keep my dog flea and tick-free?

I answered this yes and no. We need to understand how preventatives work and understand our pet's environment. Sometimes we get calls about when a pet has a lot of fleas, and they're with four other pets at home, and the owner calls and says, I want something for my pet's fleas, and they apply that. Then, two days later, they're still seeing fleas. That would not be because the flea product is not working if it was a good quality product, but it's because of the environment. That product is working as best it can, but you're in a flea-infested environment, so it's going to take time to break that cycle. If you're consistent with a good quality product, yes, but you could still see some fleas and ticks during that time, depending on the situation.

I think a lot of people stop preventive care when it starts getting cold. Fleas don't care if it's cold because your dog's nice and warm. Ticks aren't quite as persistent. It depends on your area. In North Carolina, we have 70-degree days and then 30-degree days. It's just crazy weather even through the winter. Plus, a lot of our pets are inside pets, so they're not living out in the element, and they're living in our climate-controlled homes with us, which fleas and ticks love. In that sense, if they're mainly inside, or only if your dog goes out to go to the bathroom, it can pick up fleas. If your dog stays inside all the time, you can bring them in. So don't get complacent and think that your dog can never get fleas because I've seen it happen many times, and I know you have too. You may have an inside dog that maybe never leaves, but the cat goes in and out. You have to think of all aspects, and you may not see them on a cat as much because they give it all to the dog. It's a cat thing.

How does preventive care help my dog in all stages of life?

We tend to focus on puppies. We touched a little bit on that. We think about vaccines and puppy diseases because their immunity is not fully developed or not as robust as it could be. The preventative for the middle stage of life could be to keep them agile and energetic, so they can live a full life. That can be by preventing parasites and feeding them proper nutrition so they're not overweight and their joints don't feel like an old dog's joints when they're only four years old. Later in life, not that old age is a disease, but things tend to hurt a little worse as we get older. We can be more susceptible to diseases as the immune system isn't as robust as we age. So think about all those stages.

Prevention is not just medical prevention. Prevention for puppies may crate training your puppy when you're gone so it doesn't eat things that could cause a blockage. As your pet ages, there are two ends of the spectrum, so take precautions so it doesn't hurt itself. Raise his food bowl, and put the carpet down so they don't slip. So there are lots of different aspects of preventive control. Along those lines that we haven't talked about is behavior. We talk a lot about client education. One reason that pets end up at a shelter is that they're unwanted due to a lot of behavioral issues. So we talk about that in the puppy stages, but if you come to us with a pet that's older, there's still hope, and there are still things that we can do to educate. At that point, it may not be preventative, but it may be something we can work on and do the hard work to prevent problems later.

Can preventive care save my dog's life?

I think so. That's one of those things you may not realize, but by doing proper prevention, you're helping to prevent a lot of diseases. The preventative medication, making sure your dog's on a leash and in a safe place, the seatbelt or the car restraint. So all those things are prevention. If you practice them well, you can keep your dog safe and avoid a lot of problems.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 802-1280, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.